One of the biggest ‘danger times’ I see with those I work with is the dreaded night time eating session, you know the one when you’ve finally got the kids to bed and get a chance to put your feet up and relax on the sofa. Many find themselves wandering into the kitchen looking for something to eat, even though they are not hungry, looking for the sweet treat or that one deserved drink to relax with. This nightly habit for many can prevent them from losing the weight they want to as it can lead to over indulging in calories.
Enjoying sweet foods after the evening meal can be a habit that forms in childhood or one that evolves over time. Growing up we always had dessert and its only now as an adult that I choose not to, yet when my dad comes to dinner he always likes to have something! A small serve of pudding, biscuit with a cup of tea or some fruit or yoghurt can be a harmless, and enjoyed without any associated weight problems. It’s more the regular evening binges that completely derail ones calorie intake. The nightly overeating that acts to soothe another emotion – loneliness, frustration, boredom and overeating that can become a deeply entrenched habit, and as such can be very difficult to break.
Night eating can be defined as an issue when it prevents you from reaching a particular goal, whether this be weight loss or just weight control; when it is mentally distracting you from what you really should be doing or when it results in your feeling terrible on a regular basis. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a biscuit or two, but when you demolish an entire packet for the sake of it, or when you cannot have any sweet food in the house for fear of binging then this is an issue.
If you want to remove this habit from your nightly routine then a good starting point is to identify when it happens. Is it when you are home alone, watching TV, when you are online or when you stay up extra late? Identifying your riskiest time for night eating is the first step in taking control of it.
Next, it is about self-management. Stop buying the foods – if they are not in your house you are less likely to eat them! Get busy so that you are not at home alone. Or watch less TV so it does not act as a trigger to eat.
Finally, long term the ideal outcome is for you to have some clear rules that you find easy to stick to. This may mean you do have one small, portion and calorie controlled treat each night and that is it. Or that you do not eat after dinner, no exceptions. Every one of us will need a different rule that suits the goals we want to achieve. Remember, the first night you try and break a habit, it is difficult. The second, not so easy either but once you get 3-4 days under your belt, you will be well on your way to owning and managing your night eating.